As the campaign to save 2.15 Lakh trees in the forest area of Buxwaha gains momentum, Madhya Pradesh high court has intervened asking the state government and Aditya Birla's Essel mining group to respond to a PIL by Advocate Sudeep Singh Saini from Jabalpur. 

On Friday, June 17, Chief Justice Mohammed Rafeeq and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla's division bench issued a notice to the Central government, state government and Aditya Birla's Essel Mining group to respond to a plea submitted in the court by Advocate Saini on the decision to fell 2.15 lakh trees to make way for a diamond mining project at Bunder site in Buxwaha forest region of Chattarpur district.

According to Dainik Bhaskar which reported the hearing, in his plea, Advocate Sudip Singh Saini has submitted that the state government has leased 382 hectares of forest land to the Essel group for the next 50 years to set up a diamond mining project, which requires the forest land that is home to around 2.15 lakh trees to be cleared off.

According to the plea, it results in unrecoverable destruction to the surrounding environment and precious wildlife dependent on it and also impacts the livelihood of 8,000 tribals currently living around this land.

Save Buxwaha Campaign moved online in May due to the pandemic
Save Buxwaha Campaign moved online in May due to the pandemicSocial Media

Netizens give CM Shivraj Chouhan a lesson in afforestation

In his UN speech on Monday, June 14, PM Modi assured the world leaders that India is committed to achieving an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. He also spoke of the country's efforts to deal with issues of land degradation and drought. Recently, when the Buxwaha issue was raised in the cabinet, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan said that his government plans to compensate for the felling by planting 4.5 lakh trees, might go up to planting 10 lakh trees and he will personally go and plant the saplings. 

Reacting to his statement, youngsters took to Twitter to share their sentiments. "At the time when we conserve our old forests to tackle climate crisis, we're allowing more trees to be fell. Afforestation is good of course, but it can't replace the big trees are playing in carbon capturing. This is not sustainable development," wrote Maanvinder Pilania.

Citing this as a publicity stunt, another user wrote, "Newly planted saplings for publicity cannot replace old grown-up trees. If he justifies it then why can't he be allotted a 1BHK flat in place of a grand bungalow at Shyamala hills for CM house."

Project to impact wildlife corridor 

The campaign that picked up online during the pandemic lockdowns across the nation in May has been generating awareness about the Buxwaha forest region and how another mining project in the thirsty lands of Bundelkhand will hurt the environment irreparably.

According to reports, the proposed Bunder mining project is merely 20 km away from the buffer zone of Panna Tiger Reserve and the project may damage the wildlife corridor between the tiger reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the area.

The project might also impact the wildlife corridor between Panna Tiger Reserve and Naudehli sanctury
Impact on wildlife corridor between Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi sanctuary cited by The Wire Science               

A water-thirsty project in drylands of Bundelkhand

The Central Groundwater Authority has classified Buxwaha as a semi-critical area in terms of water availability. The water requirement of the project is estimated at about 5.9 million cubic meters per day.

Currently, the Essel mining group has proposed to build a dam on a nearby river to collect water for the mining works. "To meet this requirement a seasonal nullah will be diverted by constructing a dam. The water storage in the reservoir is estimated at around 17 MCM (million cubic metres)," a pre-feasibility report on the project was quoted in a Mongabay article.

International Business Times spoke to environment conservationist Neha Sinha to understand how projects like this affect the environmental balance.


"Bundelkhand is a thirsty area with very few resources for water. Tree canopies act as a watershed, if all the trees are gone, the area might further see depleting water levels. When land is dug up deep for mining works, all you have is mounts of soil or sand which is mining debris. This is picked up by strong winds and may lead to respiratory issues. If a mining project comes up that requires million cubic meters of water per day, how are the locals living in the area or the animal life dependent on the forest is to sustain."

According to Mongabay, the Buxwaha forest habitat provides succour to Indian Gazelle, Chowsingha, Sloth Bear, Leopard, Monitor Lizard, Indian Rumped vulture and peacock which are covered under Sch I of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The tree species found in the area are khair, bel, dhava, seja, ghoat, renjha, Amltas and saugon. The water requirement of the project is estimated at about 5.9 million cubic meters per day.